A showdown over parental rights in a handful of New Jersey school districts is expected to escalate next week when NJ Attorney General Matt Platkin seeks to block policies in defiance of state guidelines.

The dispute is around district policies that require parents to be notified if a student changes his/her gender identity in school.

Manalapan-Englishtown, Middletown, and Marlboro school boards all passed similar parental notification policies that are in direct conflict with guidance from the New Jersey Department of Education.

attachment-Matt Platkin NJ Attorney General

By mutual agreement, those policies have been on hold after Platkin filed lawsuits against the districts.

Now the matter will go before a judge next Tuesday, August 15.

In June, the Murphy administration issued a warning to school districts about the state's LGBTQ anti-discrimination policy and encouraged students and parents to report violators.

I do not, will not ever co-parent with the government. If Murphy wants to co-parent then he should pay up and split some bills for my kids. He wasn't present in the delivery room when they were born.

-NJ Parent to NY Post

In a joint statement, Attorney General Matt Platkin and acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillen warned schools not to violate state standards on inclusive curriculum and to comply with state policy protecting LGBTQ students.

attachment-NJ transgender student guidance 1

"In New Jersey, the law is clear," the statement read, "The (New Jersey Law Against Discrimination) LAD prohibits schools from adopting policies or practices that discriminate against students or staff based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or other protected characteristics, whether or not motivated by discriminatory intent. The LAD also prohibits policies or practices that create a hostile environment based on any protected characteristic."

Showdown over parental rights

Hundreds of parents have descended on their local school boards to protest the state guidelines and to demand districts approve policies that protect parental rights.

Only a handful of districts have complied with those demands, but those districts are facing the full weight of New Jersey's top law enforcement official.

attachment-NJ transgender student guidance 2

"Despite the LAD’s anti-discrimination principles," Platkin and Allen-McMillen warned, "Some school boards and legislators have recently introduced proposals in New Jersey and across the country to restrict classroom discussions and staff training about race, racism, gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation."

Many parents say they refuse to co-parent with the government, and they will determine what is in the best interest of their children.

Murphy offended, vows action

Gov. Phil Murphy has been steadfast in his support of state rules on trans students.

One of the districts that approved policies in defiance of the rules was Middletown, where Murphy lives. When asked about it, Murphy said he was "offended."

At the time, he also promised his administration will be “vigilant to the max in fighting back” against such policies.

Getty Images/AP/Townsquare Media illustration
Getty Images/AP/Townsquare Media illustration

Parents are equally steadfast in opposition to Murphy's policies.

A parent who spoke at a very raucous school board meeting in Middletown told the New York Post, "I do not, will not ever co-parent with the government. If Murphy wants to co-parent then he should pay up and split some bills for my kids. He wasn't present in the delivery room when they were born."

Punishment could be severe

If a judge sides with Murphy and upholds the current guidelines, including a ban on parental notification if a child changes gender identity in school, districts face harsh punishment if they continue to defy those rules.

Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillen has broad powers to force districts into compliance.

Protesters outside the Middletown Board of Education meeting 6/20/23
Protesters outside the Middletown Board of Education meeting 6/20/23 (New Jersey Public Education Coalition @njpecoalition via Twitter)

Allen-McMillen could withhold state and federal aid. She could also appoint a state monitor.

In the most extreme of cases, she could also implement a full state takeover of a district that refuses to comply with her rules. That could also include dissolving the current elected school board and installation of a board she would control.

What gives the education commissioner such broad power?

What do state guidelines on transgender students and gender identity really say?

Townsquare Media did an expanded look at what the state policy specifically includes, and what it does not include.

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